I had a different blog post planned for today; however, I felt this topic more strongly today. So, let’s talk about the word fine, particularly in the context of I’m fine.
For most of my life, when someone would ask me, “how are you?” My response (like it is for a lot of us) would be, “I’m fine.”
There’s a question we need to interject, however. In the space between that question and our knee-jerk response, ask: “Do I like to be lied to?”
We often pause, to tell the truth about ourselves in this instance, because it’s just easier. Getting deep with, what is often a casual, small-talk question, would be uncomfortable, right? I mean, if we ask someone (anyone) how they’re doing, we’re likely to be caught off guard if we got the truth – if it’s anything but “I’m fine.”
Let’s look at this typical scenario more closely, shall we?
Had I told the truth about myself when someone asked me how I was doing back in 2014, I would have said:
Life itself overwhelms me, and I am feeling miserable inside. I feel like there’s more to me than where I’m at and what I’m doing right now. Everything from my past is creaping up on me. I feel like a hot mess. I haven’t showered for three days (no lie) and only get out of my pj’s and make my bed right before my kids come home, so they don’t see what a hot mess I am. I take personality tests, am going through various personal development programs trying to figure out why I’m so f*cked up. That’s how I feel – f*cked up. I ache all over. I can’t eat because I feel bloated all the time. My hair is falling out in clumps in the shower. I am quick to anger and slow to love. Also, I got a dog because my youngest went to kindergarten and, I needed a distraction, because, just like that, I feel like I’ve lost a part of my identity – in so many ways.
How do you think someone would respond to that on the street, on the phone, or at lunch? They likely would’ve regretted even asking. And, for some reading that, you may be realizing, for the first time (if you haven’t read my book), how I really felt and what my days really looked like back then.
Grief causes us to behave in ways that are out of character for who we are at our core. But, here’s the caveat to that statement: I don’t think we truly know ourselves until we dissect ourselves. We may have an understanding of our likes, dislikes, passions, etc.. But, I’m talking really deep examining and knowing. The knowing you finally feel when you look in the mirror, and your reflection meets your soul. When have you seen yourself this way? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror so profoundly that you began to weep? If I were Kenny Rogers singing “Gamgling Man,” I’d bet my left kidney that you haven’t. It’s been a long time since I’ve done so myself.
I can tell you, what’s happened for me when I have in the past, is a whole lot of tears start flowing. Those tears would come from a whole lot of hurt at that time. I would bet my right kidney, but considering I already bet my left and probably lost, I’ll say I’d bet my next paycheck that if I did so today, it would be a different story. Today, I feel a whole lot of appreciation for being where I am in my life and all the sh*t I worked through to get to this place. I know this because it happens so easily now when I am in meditation or journaling.
So, perhaps when people ask me now, “how are you?” I should say: “Fantastic. How can I help you feel fantastic today, too?” I’m sure that’s not something most people would expect to hear, right?
So, friend – how can I help YOU feel fantastic today? Or, perhaps, tomorrow, or nine weeks from now? More specifically, I can, after the last session of my upcoming eight-week grief group program (March 11th). Shameless plug, I know. But truthfully, this program was the catalyst for changing the trajectory of the rest of my life. I feel this in my bones because I became certified, and I’ve found my calling in this work. However, even if you’re not certifying and are a participant, you’re going through it and doing the work. You complete deep inner-work, in a supported and guided environment. You don’t know it yet, but the feeling after the eight weeks will have you choosing another response than “I’m fine.” I guarantee it.
Let’s remove “I’m fine” from our vocabulary and, instead, begin to tell the truth about ourselves. Grief isn’t a dirty word. And yet, it certainly feels like it is. I’m on a mission to make grief common-talk, just like the weather. Not one person is immune to it, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, etc.. We can look at anyone on the street and know there’s something within them that causes an ache inside because we all grieve something or someone. “I’m fine” is merely a distraction from the pain and loneliness that persists inside. And by saying “I’m fine,” we’re placing a bandaid over an infection. All the while, we’re rejecting and denying where our “hut (heart + gut)” is telling us we need to heal.
We start changing the conversation when we start getting honest with ourselves and with each other. And, this conversation starts in our homes with our children. We need to stop accepting, “I’m fine.” We have to help our children find the words to help them express how they’re truly feeling. Because behind every “I’m fine” is a lie if we take the time to dissect it.
One last thought: How can we expect our children to tell the truth about themselves when we hide the truth about ourselves?
P.S. Tickets/info for my upcoming group in Bismarck, ND can be found HERE, if you’re interested in moving beyond your grief.
Do you feel sad around the holidays? A lot of people do. The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time surrounded by loved ones and about joy and good cheer. So why do many people have a hard time? For some, there was a loss around the holidays, so it’s a reminder of someone they loved passing during that time. Or, being around others who have their loved ones, is a reminder of the loss of a special relationship. And, for many, it’s the first holiday without their loved one.
As you can see, there are many reasons why this time of year can be emotionally charged and challenging. There is a lot of stimulus touching your heart in its most painful spot. With all the holiday hustle and bustle, someone in this situation will either prefer to isolate or become the organizer and entertainer. In the process, you are using the holiday busy-ness as a distraction.
What is a stimulus, and how does it relate to grief?
Stimuli consist of the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes that trigger our memory. It causes your brain to recall events or feelings associated with the stimulus. Stimuli such as holiday lights, decorations, and music can cause you to remember a family member who died, a break-up, or childhood experiences. Fond memories are normal and healthy. Unresolved grief is when fond memories turn painful.
The same stimulus can affect two different people in two different ways. Let’s say two sisters hear a Christmas song that was a favorite of their mother, who died.
One sister might hear the song and remember how much her mother loved it. She may miss her mother for a few minutes, but then she goes back to what she was doing. The song served only as a reminder of how much she loves her mom but didn’t affect her entire day.
The other sister might hear the song, think about how much she misses her mother, get sad, and be unable to focus the rest of the day. She might walk around feeling numb and unable to participate in holiday festivities fully. Or she may refuse to talk about anything other than her mother’s death.
The second sister is an example of unresolved grief.
A personal example I have is my dad always used Old Spice after-shave. And, not so very long ago, I was visiting my mom, and what did she have in her medicine cabinet in the bathroom? A bottle of Old Spice after-shave. I never asked her about it, and I don’t have to – I already know why she has it in there after all these years. Perhaps it’s still the same bottle left from my dad – I don’t know.
Another personal example is when my dad would change his colostomy bag. That smell is burned into my brain. And, although that’s not something that someone would smell on the regular, when I have, throughout my life smelled something even remotely similar, it takes me back in time. And, it’s not a particularly happy memory at all.
I have so many examples of this. I’m sure you can think of some of your own as well. Reminders can be all around us at times. During the holidays, it can just feel overwhelming.
Even at Thanksgiving, I found myself talking about Cabbage Patch dolls. What came up for me, at that moment, was how the first Christmas after my dad died, I received two cabbage patch dolls in the mail from who, I don’t know. All I know is, I can think of these things now with gratitude with how far I’ve come in addressing the grief around losing him. The grief never goes away – it just changes, as does my response to it. I’m not dwelling, ruminating, and feeling stuck in that grief rut as I had been all those years prior.
How do I know if I’m experiencing unresolved grief?
The holidays may remind you of any number of losses, such as moving, events that happened during childhood, an ex-spouse, a sick child, or a pet that died.
If a Christmas tree reminds you of the fun holidays, you spent with a loved one who died, that’s normal. If you then become brokenhearted over the loss of your family member due to fond memories turning painful where your entire day is impacted – that’s unresolved grief.
Unresolved grief affects your ability to stay in the moment, which limits your capacity for happiness. During the holidays, it might limit your ability to enjoy time with your friends and family fully. Some people avoid holidays altogether because they don’t want to risk the feelings associated with painful reminders of their loss. Until you become complete with the losses in your life, you will never be able to enjoy all life has to offer fully.
Unresolved grief may be at the root of any fear associated with thoughts or feelings about a relationship. – The Grief Recovery Institute
What To Do Instead When Grief is Causing the Holidays to Suck
The Death of Someone Important to You:
Don’t Isolate Yourself. It’s normal and natural to feel lost and alone―but Don’t Isolate―even if you have to force yourself to be with people and participate in normal activities.
Don’t misuse food or alcohol to cover up or push down your feelings. As children, when we were sad about something, we were often told, “Don’t feel bad. Here have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” The cookie doesn’t make the child feel better, it makes the child feel different, and the real cause of the sadness is not addressed. When we get older, alcohol and drugs are used for the same wrong reasons―to mask feelings of sadness.
Talk about your feelings, but don’t expect a quick fix. It’s essential to have someone you trust to talk to about your memories and the feelings they evoke. Ask your friend to listen to you and not try to fix you. You’re sad, not broken; you need to be heard.
While it’s important to talk about your feelings, don’t dwell on them. Telling the same sad story over and over is not helpful it can establish and cement a relationship to your pain. Better to make a simple statement of how you feel at the moment. For example, say, “I just had a sad feeling of missing him.”
Time doesn’t heal—actions do. The myth that time heals a broken heart is just that, a myth. Time can’t heal a broken heart any more than air can jump into a flat tire. Time goes by. It’s the actions you take within time that can help you feel better.
Death of a Spouse or Divorce:
Just because you feel lonely doesn’t mean you’re ready to start dating. Don’t start dating while your heart is still broken, or you will guarantee that the next relationship will fail. Being prepared to date again is a function of the actions you take within time to repair your heart – whether you’re dealing with a death or divorce.
Don’t get too busy—avoid hyperactivity. Be careful not to get too busy. Being super active distracts you, it doesn’t help you deal with your broken heart.
Maintain your normal routines. Adapting to the changes in your life following a death or a divorce is an enormous adjustment. You are learning how to move from being with someone to being alone. It’s never a good idea to add a host of other changes while you’re trying to adapt to so much disruption in your life.
Go through the pain, not under, over, or around it. It’s very tempting to try to avoid the pain associated with a broken heart. But it’s also a form of self-punishment. Whenever you skirt the pain, all you’re doing is pushing it away temporarily. It will always come back to haunt you.
Find practical guidance, or you will sabotage your future. While the grief of a broken heart is the normal reaction to the death of your mate or the end of a romantic relationship, it’s constructive to find effective tools to help you discover and complete everything that was left emotionally unfinished. Otherwise, you will drag your emotional baggage into the next relationship and ruin it before it starts.
For most people, the first holiday season after a death or a divorce is the most painful. But that’s not true for everyone. For many, the second, third, and subsequent years are excruciating. Since time doesn’t heal emotional wounds, people often report feeling worse the more years that go by. No matter when your loss occurred, it’s most important that you become aware that recovery is possible and to learn which actions will help you.
If you’re dealing with a death, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook. The principles and actions of The Grief Recovery Method have been used by more than a half-million people to help deal with the impact of the death of someone important to them.
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a divorce or romantic breakup, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of Moving On. The principles and actions in it will help you deal with your broken heart.
If your children are struggling with a loss of any type and any level of emotional intensity, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of When Children Grieve.
P.S. If you are ready to take action towards resolving what is emotionally incomplete for your children (and receive grief education like never before), there is still time to save your spot, at a reduced rate, for a future Helping Children with Loss group program. Click HEREto reserve your spot!
P.P.S. Also, just for funsies, if you KNOW you want to (or plan to) participate in a future in-person grief recovery program (1-on-1 or group), here’s your incentive to commit yourself and your heart. Click HERE to check out this and the other discounts i’m offering through Cyber Monday (12/2). There is no expiration on this offer – so, the next time I provide a group in your community, you’ll be all set. Or, we can set up a 1-on-1 asap, too. I actually need two more 1-on-1 clients. Then I will be able to pursue additional training that will enable me to offer grief recovery ONLINE (which will be HUGE, given my geographical location and the interest I have throughout the state of ND and beyond)!
*portions of this blog post are adapted from The Grief Recovery Institute blog
Do you know how kids tend to have no filters? Well, maybe it’s about time we adults remove the filters we have around our grief.
Notice how I didn’t say feelings? Yes, all emotions are valid and have value; however, the one I am most concerned about is the feeling of grief. I mean, I am the grief lady, after all! Lol!
In all seriousness, though, this phrase has almost felt like a mantra for me this week. Such as, when I felt myself cower and shrivel a little when I felt my values and integrity were being challenged. Respectfully, I stated my case, stuck to my values, and slept well that night.
Or, in conversation with my accountability group that consists of a beautiful, supportive group of women from all walks of life. This theme popped up for me again as women shared how particular challenges were arising and causing them feelings of grief. Although grief was not the word used, grief is what we feel of relationships that we wish would be/had been different, better, or more.
Also, the courage the women in my current 8-week grief recovery, showed when they shared the truth of their sorrow and pain.
Speak your truth, to me, is not some modern, new personal-development phrase to throw around. When I say it to someone else or when you say it to someone and ask the other person to share their truth with you, you must mean it. Because what is shared back is their truth. And, if you’re not a heart with ears, prepared to hear it, and know what to do with what’s said, then please don’t ask them to share it. And, when someone does speak their truth, thank them for sharing – that’s all you need to do. Don’t analyze, criticize, judge, and by all means, do not compare your story to theirs. Honor their truth with a thank you for sharing and ask if they accept hugs. Hugs are good for the soul; they release the good chemicals in the brain, as do tears. Allow those healing droplets to flow.
Care to speak your truth and need a heart with ears? Speak your truth in recorded audio and email it to me at victoria [at] theunleashedheart [dot] com. This idea isn’t a challenge or anything, and neither the audio nor the email address attached to it will be used in any other way. Sometimes, we need to give our truth a voice and need someone to hear it – and nothing else. If this applies to you, I’m all ears.
P.S. I shared in this social post that I would share what’s next for me this next year in this week’s blog post. Between the time of that social share and sitting down to write this week’s blog post, I felt this topic was what I needed to write, rather than a reflection-of-the-year post that I thought I would write. At any rate, know that I will share a blog post probably next month, I think, where I will do a recap of the year and what I see for 2020. We will soon enter an entirely new decade – are you ready for it? I personally can’t wait! xx
In the personal-development arena, you’ll often hear the words or phrase self-sabotage. But what is self-sabotage? It’s no different than self-betrayal. And that phrase feels a bit ickier. It also feels more truthful, too.
Self-Sabotage vs. Self-Betrayal
When you choose to self-sabotage (i.e., get in your own way, choose thinking/behavior patterns that don’t serve you, etc.), you’re also betraying yourself. When you choose to sit in pain, anger, and sadness beyond the time those feelings have served you, that’s a betrayal of your heart. Essentially, you’re also keeping yourself in mental/emotional prison, too.
Human behavior has always fascinated me. I enjoy people-watching, hearing people’s stories of what makes them who they are, and have made it my mission to figure out who I am and why I do the things I do. But, if I had asked myself long ago this one question: In What Ways Am I Betraying Myself? Perhaps, I would’ve realized what needed to change far sooner?
Our thoughts generate feelings, which then prompts us to take action – or not to. Considering thoughts can be changed, it would be safe to assume then that our feelings and actions would follow suit, too. So, if you realize all the ways you are betraying yourself (your thoughts), and feel a desire for things to be different, better, or more (i.e., grief), then you have a litmus test for the actions you take. If the thing you think you want to do isn’t aligned with your desire for your experience to be different, better, or more, then you know it’s not the thing you need to do.
Ways I Used to Betrayed Myself
Here are some examples of ways I have betrayed myself. If any of these resonate with you, then you have a starting point of where to look to heal.
Looking for validation/affirmation from others.
Quieting my voice when the situation didn’t feel right in my gut.
Getting wrapped up in other’s emotional turbulence (taking their “stuff” on as my “stuff”).
Keeping toxic relationships in my life far too long.
Not addressing my mental/emotional health earlier in life.
Not understanding/creating boundaries.
Living in the past (or the future) – neglecting many present moments.
What I Do Now
Now that I’ve shared how I’ve betrayed myself, I think it’s important to share the ways I’ve turned these betrayals against myself around.
Trusting my inner-knowing. No one will ever know me as much as I know myself, and no amount of outside validation/affirmation will mean more than the validation/affirmation I can give myself.
Speaking up for myself – saying what is or isn’t okay. This is a big way we can honor our hearts and spirit.
Being mindful of when I feel myself taking on other’s negative energy and then address it. But first, if I know the situation could bring this feel on, I am more mindful going into the situation in the first place. I imagine myself in a golden, protected bubble of light where that negativity doesn’t affect me. AND, similarly, become more mindful of the energy I am bringing to situations. Because, we get back what we put out, right?
As you grow, evolve, and change, those toxic relationships around you naturally fall away. We don’t need to push any sort of agenda on others. The only thing we have 100% control over is ourselves.
Addressing my grief head-on has been the biggest game-changer of my life. Had I only known in my twenties what I know now, I can only move forward and pay it forward, too. Addressing my inner-pain is what is allowing me to help others address theirs. And, addressing your inner-world has ripple effects on your outer-world, ten-fold.
Boundaries? What the heck are those? I never knew what it meant to have boundaries, why they were necessary, how to create them, or how to respect others’ boundaries, too, until I got to the other side of grief recovery. And, this book is a game-changer, friends. If you follow me on FB or IG, you’ll know I’ve shared this before, but WOW! do I love this book! It has biblical references, but it’s not preachy or in-your-face about God. I happen to be a believer and almost didn’t read this because of the reviews. I didn’t want another biblical-fluff book. This book is not. It is so practical and will teach you all you need to know about boundaries.
When we go through life wallowing in our sorrows, our minds are stuck in the past, while our hearts fight to find hope for the future. And when we’ve stuffed our past for so long, we do everything we possibly can to avoid and find ourselves always looking to the future, chasing the next thing. All the while, we’re never fully living in the present. Who do you are betraying? Well, not only yourself but also your family.
Do you see how self-sabotage is a “fluffier” word than self-betrayal? When you start to awaken to all of the parts of you that make you you, it becomes natural to begin to call things what they are. And it also makes healing possible. Awareness is a beautiful thing.
Journal prompt for you: How am I betraying myself?
P.S. Next week, Tuesday, November 12th, I will have a booth at Recovery Reinvented, an event put on by ND Governor Burgum and his wife. It’s an excellent place for anyone who is struggling with addiction to find resources, listen to various keynote speakers, and possibly connect with others in recovery.
P.P.S. My monthly grief-support-in-your-inbox, Living Unleashed™ is 13% off for the entire month of November, in honor of my middle child, Alexandra and how grateful I am for all that she has taught me. She is turning 13 this Sunday! She is like sunshine, always doing her best to brighten someone’s day and is the kindest, most thoughtful 13-year-old I know. It seems so crazy to me; I thought I’d offer a crazy discount in her honor! Just enter the code GivingThanks13 Living Unleashed™ contains content not shared anywhere else (as does my newsletter) but with even more good stuff – mantra’s for your phone, audios, personal examples, resources, and more! It’s everything I discovered along the way to help my heart heal (before Grief Recovery).
What comes to mind when I ask the questions: What does it mean to you to live an unleashed life?What does an unleashed life look like to you?
Perhaps no one has ever asked you that question or, maybe it was worded differently? Either way, it may be helpful to think about what it is in life that seems to be tying you down, holding you back, or keeping you stuck.
For me, I discovered it was grief. Grief had a hold on me up until this year, if I’m honest. Living unleashed has been a process of…unlearning. An unlearning of all the ways I would revert to old thought patterns and behaviors, as well as the misinformation and myths of grief passed on through generations.
It didn’t matter what decision I had to make early in my adulthood; I always reverted to the thought patterns and teachings of my childhood. I was leashed to my past in so many ways. I had yet to heal the loss and trauma I had experienced and lacked self-worth, confidence, and I also didn’t trust myself.
Living unleashed, or living an unleashed life, to me, means living a life that fully embodies the qualities of my soul and spirit. When our spirit feels crushed, and our hearts are broken, how can we ever see our light? How can we make decisions based on our soul’s desires instead of fear, if what we’ve been educated about grief is to keep busy, stay strong, that it just takes time, or that we need to bury and replace it?
I feel unleashed of grief for the first time and have grown more confident in my decision-making. Fear and self-doubt don’t over-rule my intuition. And, although my life hasn’t dramatically changed to others on the outside, I know my inner-world has. And, I’ve made moves and decisions that feel aligned with where I only dreamed of being five years ago.
There was a time, I longed for the day to have the inner-knowing I feel today. I felt so lost. So many significant changes were happening at the same time, and I didn’t have the tools to cope. And I also didn’t realize at that time that what I was experiencing was grief.
Significant changes in our lives often bring us grief – we don’t think of our daily experience as the by-product of grief. When self-care is thrown out the window, when you find yourself feeling as though life is passing you by, and you’re not able to live in the present – that’s very likely grief taking hold of your heart. You do your best to avoid, distract, or keep busy – all the while, the only thing you’re distracting yourself from is your heart.
I created Living Unleashed from the place of trying to find my way out of my grief hole. I have come so far, and I know that if it’s possible for me after 30+ years, it’s possible for you – no matter the loss or trauma you’ve experienced. I’ve relied on many means to heal along the way, and Living Unleashed is my way of sharing what I discovered about my grief along the way. The Grief Recovery Method experience I had, picked up where I left off and forced me to get real with my feelings, digging deeper than I had when I was developing Living Unleashed. Reiki has been another tool to deepen my Grief Recovery experience that I feel so grateful to share with others.
What works for me may not work for you – and that’s okay. But, I do confidently say, if you do the work outlined in the Grief Recovery Method, you will find relief, and you will find hope again. And, if you’re not quite ready to unleash your heart in the most in-depth way possible, there’s always Living Unleashed, that can get you started on your healing journey today.